Two years ago, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) reported the Portuguese streaming site MrPiracy to the U.S. Trade Representative.
The Hollywood anti-piracy group described the site as a notorious pirate operation that should be dealt with accordingly.
Whether this diplomatic lobbying effort had a direct effect is not clear, but MrPiracy.top shut down a few weeks later. Interestingly, however, it didn’t take long for another site to step up and take its place.
The successor was Pobre.tv, where Pobre is Portuguese for ‘poor’. The site offered many thousands of movies and TV shows free of charge and quickly became the go-to entertainment portal for millions of people.
This meteoric rise was in part facilitated by the old MrPiracy domains, which were redirected to Pobre without an official explanation. Perhaps the old behemoth willingly ‘handed over’ the reigns to this ‘newcomer’, or there might have been some kind of deal behind the scenes.
In part due to these redirects, the popularity of Pobre.tv and Pobre.wtf in Portugal was massive from the get-go. Up until last month, it was ranked among the top 25 most visited sites in the country, beating the web traffic numbers of legitimate platforms such as Netflix, HBO, and Disney.
Enforcement Efforts Begin
PobreTV’s status didn’t go unnoticed by rightsholders. Over the last year, the MPA-led Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) tried its best to identify the operators through a series of DMCA subpoenas, targeted at Cloudflare.
Whether these legal requests resulted in usable intelligence is unknown but PobreTV did eventually move away from Cloudflare. Most recently, it was hosted at AlexHost but, over the past few days, it became completely unreachable.
Pobre TV Vanishes
When a site of this size disappears, people start looking for explanations. Thus far, however, the operators have yet to comment in public and they seem to have disappeared from the official Discord channel too.
Pobre hasn’t been mentioned officially in any recent enforcement waves either. In theory, it could have been (indirectly) caught up in a recent anime crackdown that also hit several other Portuguese language sites, but here’s no concrete evidence for that.
From what we can see, the domain names haven’t been seized so it’s possible that the operators decided to shut down voluntarily, perhaps after being pressured by enforcement actions. That could include the ongoing ACE actions, for example.
ACE Kept the Pressure On
ACE boss Jan van Voorn informs TorrentFreak that, as the largest illegal streaming site in Portugal, Pobre TV has been on the ACE radar for a while. This dates back to the DMCA subpoenas we mentioned earlier but there were more recent activities as well.
“Over the recent weeks, ACE obtained several disclosure orders requesting intermediaries connected to the operation of Pobre TV to hand over their customer details,” Van Voorn tells us.
“Due to the confidential nature of these legal actions, we cannot disclose further details at this stage,” he adds.
The anti-piracy alliance doesn’t mention which intermediaries were targeted. There are a few options, including the hosting company, domain registrar Namecheap, Discord, or any payment companies that were used to pay for these services.
ACE comments suggest that it is not directly involved in Pobre’s disappearance in the sense that it negotiated a settlement. However, it is possible that ACE managed to identify the operators, who then chose to abandon ship.
Not Taken Lightly
Across the web, there is plenty of speculation about what may have happened. Also, the news site Noticias e Tecnologia quotes a ‘reliable’ but anonymous source which states that the site is closed for good. No explanation is provided, however.
What we do know is that decisions like this aren’t taken lightly. Pobre was a highly successful streaming operation that, in addition to running ads, also monetized its service through premium subscriptions paid in Bitcoin.
These subscriptions provided access to exclusive features such as Chromecast support and an Android app, and were selling for €24 per year. This must have been quite a lucrative revenue source that most pirate site operators would not give up easily.
Whatever the reason for the shutdown, it can’t be ruled out that the database and site assets will reappear one way or another. If that’s the case, ACE will probably continue its enforcement efforts too.